"Christine, pose for a picture!"
And then there, in front of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, my husband asked me to turn around so he could try and get a good photo of me and the scenery.
I don't pose well for photos.
I tried again, a few weeks later, when we found ourselves in front of the Long Island Sound. I tried to loosen up, much to the embarrassment of my photographer (again, my husband).
Hi. My name is Christine and I am not comfortable by myself in front of a camera.
It's the classic case of "this is what I think I look like" vs. "what I actually look like," and on the rare occasion there's a photo I love, it's because Trent captured a candid moment of me laughing at between photos.
For these particular photos at the Sound, I was trying to prepare myself for an upcoming portrait session I had with our friend, Michael Rothermel. I admire Michael and his work so much - he has done product shoots for Ten Thousand Villages, photo and video productions for HOPE International, and he even shot the video of our wedding. The last thing I wanted was to be awkward in front of his camera!
Another thing about Michael is that he is married to one of my very best friends, Saritha. (How awesome is it that two of my closest friends are married to each other? #epicdoubledates) When the moment came to get dressed and ready for my portrait session, I got to have my bestie help me pick out what to wear. During our climb up the stairs to my room, I felt shaky - what if I'm a complete goofball? What do I even wear for something like this? Do I have clothes that are cool enough? Am I cool enough?
My insecurities screamed loudly as I pulled out dresses and laid them on the bed. Saritha put me at ease and grabbed two of my dresses, saying they were perfect. We chose a necklace to add some flair and then I asked her about make-up.
Saritha replied simply, "You should just do your make-up however you normally do it. These photos aren't about making you glam, they're about you being you."
Such a simple statement with a profound impact: I'm worthy of a photo shoot just because I'm me. I'm beautiful enough. I'm enough.
I don't need a lot of make up.
I don't need the coolest clothes.
I don't even need to pose just right.
I need to be me.
Michael asked me to hold a "favorite object" for some of the photos, something that made me feel comfortable. I went back and forth between grabbing a book or a cup of coffee, and ended up using my favorite mug (that so happened to be filled with Michael's coffee - he's one to sacrifice for the sake of art).
After taking a few shots and Saritha reminding me to relax my face, Michael let me see the camera screen.
That's me. Serious, powerful, thirty-two. In the instant I saw myself on his tiny view finder, my insecurities disappeared. I saw the hard-fought for joy and determination that has been the result of this year. I saw my strength wrapped in a sort of dignity that comes with age. I notice the way my hand wraps around that mug with the sacred comfort of a daily morning ritual.
Oh, and we had fun. Saritha made up scenarios to make me laugh and get me to loosen my shoulders (and my jaw): "You're about to meet Michelle Obama / the Queen of England / Bob Goff!"
All along I've been trying to act cool or enough or whatever - whether it be in the Rocky Mountains or Long Island Sound and I just needed to have fun and be me.
This year has held a lot of waiting, pain, and uncertainty for us. Turning 32 amplified my insecurities: Who am I? What am I doing with my life? Am I making any difference?
Seeing myself through Michael's camera screen reminded me of the truth I already know: I am me and I am enough. I like to have a lot of fun (flip hair pose!) and still feel very deeply (sounds exhausting? it is). This portrait session experience gave me even more gratitude for the life I live and love, and for my friends who remind me of truth along the way.
If you live in New York, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania, you can reach out to Michael via email (email@example.com) and talk about getting your own portrait session. (You can also take a look at his latest work on his Instagram.) Maybe you need updated photos for a webpage or personal project, or maybe it's been a hard year and you want to declare yourself strong in the face of it. Michael is so much fun to work with and he's even nicer if you don't steal his coffee during the session. (Sorry about that, Michael.)